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BY DAN McFARLAND
Members of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and School Board emerged Saturday from their first joint retreat in years with mutual plans for the future.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Teel Goodwin explained that the idea for the session came about when the supervisors held their own retreat in January, attempting to clarify their vision for the county's future.
Supervisors recognized that "a lot of what we do is spend money, and the biggest part of that picture is the schools," Goodwin said. "So we figured we ought to sit down with you and come up with game plans. That's the point of this: Where are we going to be in the future, and how do we all come together to find a path to get there?"
Facilitator A. Tyler St. Clair outlined the officials' shared vision for the future, which includes a vibrant economy, an effective government and sustainable land use.
Participants shared insights they gained on how they might work together in the future.
"Respect," said School Board member Judy Carter, "We've got to have respect for each other."
Supervisor Lee Frame said it's important to have positive discussions. "If we are able to keep the tone civil and respectful, we might be the only political body doing that right now."
Supervisor Shannon Abbs agreed and said that when elected officials fail to remain civil, "the public can see it."
Cooperation is key, Supervisor Jim White said.
"We are all rowing the same boat, whether we acknowledge it or not," he said. "The community wants to see us working together."
The two boards agreed on six areas to focus on:
Career and technical education (including adult education and retraining).
Communication with residents.
And resource planning.
The two boards committed to continuing the collaborative effort.
They set an immediate goal of having a supervisor liaison attend School Board meetings and vice versa.
They plan to meet again to continue discussing career and technical education.
School Board Chairman Jerry Bledsoe said he left feeling the retreat had been very productive.
"I really felt both boards were trying hard to show the community that we will work together for a common purpose--for them," he said. "I really believe it wasn't just all talk."